Can X Ray Radiation Cause Cancer

Maria Johnson
• Monday, 14 December, 2020
• 9 min read

It is harder to measure the much smaller increase in cancer risk that might come from much lower levels of radiation exposure. Most studies have not been able to detect an increased risk of cancer among people exposed to low levels of radiation.

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(Source: medicine.news)


For example, people living at high altitudes, who are exposed to more natural background radiation from cosmic rays than people living at sea level, do not have noticeably higher cancer rates. Much of what we know about cancer risks from radiation is based on studies of the survivors of the atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

For most of these cancers, the risk was highest for those exposed as children, and was lower as the age at exposure increased. Children and adolescents living near the Chernobyl plant at the time of the accident had an increased risk of thyroid cancer linked to exposure to radioactive iodine.

Workers employed in cleanup operations from 1986-1990 had an increased risk of leukemia (all types). These individuals had higher and more prolonged radiation exposures that the population residing around the plant.

Studies suggest that some people who were children during the period of above ground nuclear testing in the US may develop thyroid cancer as a result of exposure to radioactive iodine in milk. Studies of these patients have helped us learn about how radiation affects cancer risk.

Peptic ulcer disease: A large study of people who were treated with high doses of radiation (an average of 15 GY or 15,000 MTV) for the treatment of peptic ulcers found a higher risk of cancer of the stomach and pancreas. Ringworm of the scalp: Studies of people who were treated with radiation to treat a fungal infection of the scalp (called scalp ringworm or Tina wapitis) have found an increased risk of basal cell skin cancers.

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The risks of some other cancers, such as breast, liver, kidney, bladder, and other sarcomas, may also have been increased. Children treated with radiation to this area also have an increased risk of thyroid cancer.

The risk of cancer depends on a number of factors, include the dose of radiation, the part of the body being treated, the age of the person getting it (younger people are generally at greater risk), and the use of other treatments such as chemotherapy. Other factors might also play a role in how likely a person exposed to radiation is to develop cancer.

For example, some genetic conditions can mean that a person’s cells are more vulnerable to radiation damage, which might in turn raise their risk more than in someone without these gene changes. Some studies have estimated the risk of radiation exposure from imaging tests based on the risks from similar amounts of radiation exposure in the studies of the atomic bomb survivors.

Based on these studies, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that exposure to 10 MTV from an imaging test would be expected to increase the risk of death from cancer by about 1 chance in 2000. Studies of women who had been imaged many times with fluoroscopy as a teenager or young woman during treatment for tuberculosis have found an increased risk of breast cancer years later.

A study in England of exposure to radiation from CT scans found that children who received a dose of at least 30 may (the same as 30 MTV) to the bone marrow had 3 times the risk of leukemia compared to those who received a dose of 5 may or less. Several agencies (national and international) study different substances in the environment to determine if they cancausecancer.

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The American Cancer Society looks to these organizations to evaluate the risks based on evidence from laboratory, animal, and human research studies. Based on animal and human evidence, several expert agencies have evaluated the cancer -causing nature of x -rays and gamma rays.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is formed from parts of several US government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets limits for exposure to x -rays and gamma rays in part because it recognizes that this form of radiationcancausecancer.

Most of the evidence linking high levels of radiation exposure to cancer comes from studies of specific groups of people, such as those who survived atom bomb blasts in Japan during World War II, survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union in 1986, and individuals such as uranium miners and nuclear power plant workers whose jobs entail exposure to high amounts of radiation. X -rays are also used in a variety of technologies such as cancer treatment and, at much lower levels, in medical and dental imaging, food irradiation, and airport screenings.

Fluoroscopy, which uses X -rays to make moving images of internal body structures, exposes patients to different amounts of radiation depending on the duration of the test. As a treatment for cancer and other diseases, X -rays and other forms of radiation have a long history, stretching back to the early 20th century, when German and French researchers discovered that X -rays could in some cases shrink or obliterate tumors.

Not long afterward, however, it was found that exposure to X -rays, particularly at high doses for an extended period of time, could also cause cancer. Over the past 100 years the safety of radiation therapy has improved markedly as technologists have devised ways of aiming radiation beams with extreme precision, delivering high doses directly to a tumor while minimizing the amount reaching surrounding tissue.

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Until we do, we’ll be funding and conducting research, sharing expert information, supporting patients, and spreading the word about prevention. However, many common imaging tests use very low doses of radiation and pose only a minimal risk when performed properly.

They use higher doses of radiation than most other types of imaging tests, leading to an increased risk of cancer. Experts agree that while the benefits are worth the risk, CT scans should be ordered only when medically necessary and no other lower- radiation alternatives exist.

The effective doses from diagnostic CT scans are estimated to range from 1 to 10 MTV, which is comparable to a few months to several years of background radiation. Dental professionals also take extra measures to limit the exposure to other parts of your head and neck by using special collars and shields.

Exposure to X -rays and gamma rays can lead to cancer, but medical imaging procedures have a relatively low risk. The risk of death from cancer caused by 10 MTV from an imaging test is estimated at 1 chance in 2000.

Lower-energy, non-ionizing forms of radiation, such as visible light and the energy from cell phones, have not been found to cause cancer in people. Radium in turn is formed when the radioactive elements uranium and thorium break down.

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People who are exposed to high levels of radon have an increased risk of lung cancer. If you live in an area of the country that has high levels of radon in its rocks and soil, you may wish to test your home for this gas.

These forms of radiation can be released in accidents at nuclear power plants and when atomic weapons are made, tested, or used. People considering CT scans should talk with their doctors about whether the procedure is necessary for them and about its risks and benefits.

Some symptoms of radiation sickness include fainting, confusion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, skin and mouth sores, and bleeding. Short-term side effects depend on the area being treated but often include skin changes (ranging from mild reddening to something like a severe burn), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and low blood cell counts.

For example, radiation to the head and neck area can lead to problems with dry mouth and trouble swallowing. Radiation to the bone marrow can lead to long-term problems with blood cell counts and even a disease called plastic anemia.

There's been a lot in the media about radiation exposure from medical imaging, and many of my patients are asking about it. They want to know if radiation from mammograms, bone density tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, and so forth will increase their risk of developing cancer.

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(Source: onedental.co.in)

But many experts are concerned about an explosion in the use of higher radiation –dose tests, such as CT and nuclear imaging. CT scanning and nuclear imaging have revolutionized diagnosis and treatment, almost eliminating the need for once-common exploratory surgeries and many other invasive and potentially risky procedures.

Exposure to ionizing radiation from natural or background sources hasn't changed since about 1980, but Americans' total per capita radiation exposure has nearly doubled, and experts believe the main reason is increased use of medical imaging. The proportion of total radiation exposure that comes from medical sources has grown from 15% in the early 1980s to 50% today.

If you mention the measurement of radiation, many people will recall the classic Geiger counter with its crescendo of clicks. But we have no clinical trials to guide our thinking about cancer risk from medical radiation in healthy adults.

*The actual radiation exposure depends on many things, including the device itself, the duration of the scan, your size, and the sensitivity of the tissue being targeted. Most of the increased exposure in the United States is due to CT scanning and nuclear imaging, which require larger radiation doses than traditional x -rays.

In a 2009 study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, researchers estimated the potential risk of cancer from CT scans in 31,462 patients over 22 years. But for patients who had multiple CT scans, the increase in risk was higher, ranging from 2.7% to 12%.

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(Source: www.slideshare.net)

But we don't really know for sure, since the effects of radiation damage typically take many years to appear, and the increase in high-dose imaging has occurred only since 1980. If you need a CT or nuclear scan to treat or diagnose a medical condition, the benefits usually outweigh the risks.

CT scans rarely produce important findings in people without relevant symptoms. Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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